Do you ever find yourself a little freaked out by the ads and products that are being suggested to you when you open a mobile shopping app or look at a product suggested via email? How did they know you were considering that backpack for your upcoming camping trip? In today’s high-tech marketing world, it’s easy to see why some people are a little paranoid that a microchip might actually have been implanted in their brain while they were sleeping. Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Learning are changing the marketing world dramatically and there’s no doubt that technology makes it easier to target relevant messages to large groups of customers at the national level. Corporations have invested billions in CRM tools, big data analysis and campaign management tools and they are effective—at the top layer of retailing. Today, I want to talk about 5 reasons it’s important that you keep connecting with your customers at the local level.
Local Customer Engagement (LCE) is the new realm for what many of us have known for years as Local Store Marketing. Local Customer Engagement will take a corporate marketing plan and bring it to life at the individual retail level. The “big data” focused plans will create the first layer of connection with your customers—but, it’s the last few steps inside your location that will ultimately make the biggest difference to your business.
Reason #1: Customers Want to Feel a Social Connection
Whether it’s picking up dry cleaning, ordering a burger or getting an oil change—customers want to connect. They want to feel that the businesses they visit know them and value their business.
Matthew Lieberman, a distinguished social psychologist and neuroscientist, who wrote the book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, :states the following: “Social connections are as important to our survival and flourishing as the need for food, safety, and shelter. But over the last fifty years, while society has been growing more and more prosperous and individualistic, our social connections have been dissolving. We volunteer less. We entertain guests at our homes less. We are getting married less. We are having fewer children. And we have fewer and fewer close friends with whom we share the intimate details of our lives. We are increasingly denying our social nature, and paying a price for it. Over the same period of time that social isolation has increased, our levels of happiness have gone down, while rates of suicide and depression have multiplied.” Opportunities for social interaction are becoming less available—so customers value businesses that provide them with unique, targeted moments and social events.
A good example of Local Customer Engagement is World Market. I’m an addict when it comes to Sugar-Free Torani syrup—my daily coffee has to include a shot of Torani. World Market sends me texts and emails with Torani offers, but what drives me back to World Market is the fact that they host Torani recipe demo events. These events are a lot of fun, give me the opportunity to try new flavors and they have ensured that World Market is the place I go for all of my Torani purchases. Their use of Local Customer Engagement maximizes the impact of their national marketing efforts.
Reason #2: Community, Community, Community
The best examples of Local Customer Engagement leverage what is going on in the community where the business is located. This simply can’t be done on a national level for each and every retail location. It’s important to know when there is a Farmer’s Market on your strip mall parking lot or a high school band in need of new uniforms. You can build impactful sales building ideas and programs with that local knowledge. Building a Local Store Marketing plan based upon community events and local engagement will keep you connected to your community, which will drive customer loyalty and goodwill.
Reason #3: Look…. We Have Something in Common
Establishing common ground and a reason to exchange meaningful information about your products can be maximized at the local level. Recently I was shopping in downtown Breckenridge, Colorado and I spotted a University of Wisconsin t-shirt on one of the local business owners. As an alum of UW and a current resident of Wisconsin, I immediately asked “Are you from Wisconsin?” The proprietor replied “Yes” and began telling me what my colleagues at McDonald’s used to call his “i-story”. He explained how he’d decided to open a franchise in Breckenridge after visiting on holiday. My group quickly developed a sense of “loyalty” to the Wisconsin-related business and for the rest of the trip we used that store as our North Star of the downtown area. We would never have developed this connection without the business owner’s personal engagement.
Reason #4: The Competition Just Moved in Across the Street
While national marketing efforts are great at brand building and driving traffic through promotional offers—they simply don’t take into account specific competitive dynamics. Your business may face a national competitor, while the business down the block may face a local “mom and pop” business. Marketing efforts for each of those businesses should be very different and only a Local Store Marketing plan will be able to take into account those differences and opportunities to combat the competition. You are able to judge your specific strengths and weaknesses and compare them to the specific competitive location. This gives you the knowledge to develop your LSM plan with ideas that will work most effectively to win the competitive battle.
Reason #5: The World Changes and Evolves
The world is constantly in motion…changing and impacting the lives of your customers. Understanding what those changes are will help you maximize your marketing efforts. You are aware, for example, that today is the day that the road construction crew decided to block one of the entrances to your parking lot and it will be blocked for the next few weeks. You need to quickly react and obtain signage to redirect customers and your implementation of a Road Construction Special Offer will keep those customers coming in, even though it’s not all that convenient. That’s Local Store Marketing…engaging customers at the local level with offers and activities that are relevant and meaningful to them…right then, right now.
A One-Two Punch
Local Customer Engagement through impactful LSM plans, combined with strong marketing technology and national marketing efforts is the one-two punch that every local franchise retailer needs. Don’t leave sales and transactions on the table. Start building your Local Store Marketing plan today!